He Writes the Book 

Literate local singer-songwriter stays busy with new collection, European tour dates, local gigging—and a master’s thesis

Literate local singer-songwriter stays busy with new collection, European tour dates, local gigging—and a master’s thesis

Doug Hoekstra

Playing Jan. 31 at The Basement

Last year was a busy one for local musician Doug Hoekstra. He released his fourth LP, Around the Margins, toured Europe for a month, finished up a master’s degree, and worked a day job at a local charity. Even though he’s since quit his job, the coming year doesn’t look any less busy. The narrative-heavy songwriter has a new CD—The Past Is Never Past, an odds-and-sods-style collection released in Europe by the Netherlands-based Inbetweens Records—and a stack of invitations to play overseas. In 2001, he did 25 dates in the U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland; now a German agent wants to book him in March, and the Dutch want him back in May.

Hoekstra’s also shopping around his completed master’s thesis—a study of the intrusion of pop culture into mainstream academia, which he’s woven with personal experience. Much of his graduate work has been focused on detective novels, rock singers and classical literature. He has pertinent comments to make on subjects ranging from Dashiell Hammet (“he was like rock ’n’ roll...he wrote for shitty pulps and elevated the entire form”) to Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (“the Byronic hero in different forms”). Spiked with anecdotes about his own adventures as a scholar and musician, Hoekstra’s thesis makes a statement about his values and his willingness to define himself as a literate rocker.

“The idiot savant...is a false concept in rock ’n’ roll,” Hoekstra insists. “It’s always better to know more. There are people who spend all their time practicing guitar but never read a book. That can be its own game. The 'raw’ stuff can be equally self-conscious.”

But does immersing oneself in the metaphorical implications of pop stars lead to an overdose of self-consciousness when it’s time to write a new song? “I’ve always been really aware, for better or worse, of where I stand,” Hoekstra admits. “I’ve always thought of myself in that [rock singer-songwriter] tradition. It’s like Dylan created this whole genre. The book expresses what I think about art and music. It doesn’t mean I sit and think of it all when I pick up my guitar. It gets assimilated, and then it comes out.”

The songs keep coming out too. Hence the need for the 13-track The Past Is Never Past, barely a year after releasing the 15-track Around the Margins. “I have a ton of songs. I need to have the space,” he says. While working up new songs and preparing for a return to Europe, Hoekstra will play a show this Thursday at The Basement with his friends in Air Parma. Then it’s back to rewrites on the book, and maybe another album. “I spent a lot of time over Christmas catching up on stuff,” Hoekstra says. “It’s hard to keep track of it all.”

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